Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Comparing comparisons

Today I received an email from a blog friend (who I didn’t recognize immediately…sorry!) asking a question that prompted what I have been meaning to post about for a while.  So I asked permission to share the email and response, removing identifiers, for a couple reasons.

1. I don’t like to rewrite things when I don’t need to.  Who has the time?
2. I know there are SEVERAL of you other blog buddies out there who can relate to this situation, and I’d really love to share your input with her as well.

So read along, and please share your thoughts…if you want to do a post of your own, or you already have one that’s relevant, leave a link in the comments. Thanks.  Online support is VITAL, I think. I’d be lost without all the things I’ve learned from the other “DS moms.” (I know…not PC.)

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Her email:
I have a 2 1/2 year old who has down syndrome, and an 11 month old who is 'typical'.

My question for you is: how do you not compare them? At 11 months, V is doing more things than R did at 18 months. 

It scares me how fast V is learning and reaching milestones.  I am ashamed that I even compare them at all.  It's so hard to watch R at her therapies, struggling to climb stairs, or say a word, or stack a block, yet V can do those things and we haven't even showed her!

I'm sorry. I don't mean to vent. I just thought you might have some advice for a mom with an older child with special needs and a younger child who will soon surpass the older.

Thank you.
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My response:
Hi,

I’ve been debating a post about this, formulating it in my head very recently.  Funny that you happened to write today.  I don’t know that I have any great advice, but I’ll share how it looks for me.

As you might know, my girls are 27 months apart, Braska will be 4 in November and Kinlee is a few days away from 17 months.  The simple answer is that I DO compare them, sometimes just because they’re my kids and I think every parent marvels at how different and how similar their kids are, no matter what their chromosome count is.  Sometimes I enjoy looking at how Kinlee at 17 months is the same size Braska was at almost 3 years old.  It’s fun to me, not to Braska’s insult, but just because I enjoy their differences.  I love to take pictures of Kinlee in things that Braska wore, though now, they are wearing many of the same things!

That said… there are times when it’s not as “cute” to compare, and I’ve found that recently I’ve been faced with the hardest issue.  It surprised me, but I’ve had to deal with it a little more than I expected.  You see, Kinlee and Braska basically started walking at the same time…Kinlee was 13 months, Braska was 40 months.  Braska has progressed well, is getting stronger, and has gained better balance, but she is still very wobbly and very much a “new walker.”  Kinlee sped right past her, handling steps more skillfully, climbing more, balancing better, almost running at this point.  Braska is significantly delayed in her gross motor—it is one of her toughest areas, as she has severely low tone.  We know this, we knew this would happen, and it was ok.  I’m not too bothered by the walking issue.  BUT in the past couple months, Kinlee has taken off in her speech and language.  This is Braska’s STRENGTH!  Braska’s done extremely well with speech and enunciation, especially in the realm of kids with DS, and we’ve been very proud of her.  We work with her, but it is clearly a natural strength of hers.  With Kinlee fast approaching Braska in the speech “race,” I realized the other day that soon, ALL of Kinlee’s skills will be beyond Braska’s.  And that was hard for me.  I could deal with Kinlee passing her up in the weak areas, but once she overtakes her in the area of strength…what else is there?  She already uses “yes” and “no” more appropriately than Braska, who only this past week has started using “no” when she has a preference that would make it the right choice.  She can make her requests, follow directions, and understand a more complicated situation much more easily than Braska can.  It’s all a little hard for me to accept, but yet I am excited Kinlee is doing so well.  How to live in both of those worlds?!?

I never expected this to be a concern for me.  We don’t really struggle much with what Braska “can’t” do. I’m fine with her pace of learning, I expect her to do her best, but I don’t care too much about where she falls on a chart or in comparison to other 3-year-olds.  And yet, I’m hit by this situation of Kinlee preparing to fly right by her in the milestone sprint she’s on.  What to do about it?  I don’t know.  I must refocus back on the fact that Braska is a phenomenal kid, just like she is. She is by far the sweeter, more compliant, consistently happier, easier to deal with, and more loving child.  And I love that about her.  Kinlee is pretty great in her own right, but she’s a challenge in many of these areas, which I think is probably to be expected, and yet we don’t really KNOW what to expect. 

I do SO get what you mean about how the younger can just GET things, like without being taught specifically for hours and hours before producing a result.  It’s been amazing to watch Kinlee surprise us over and over.  Last night I took her to the store with me, and she looked over at the side while I was choosing a loaf of bread and said “Buns!”  And she was right.  They were hamburger buns.  Something we NEVER have in the house.  I think we’ve used them once at her grandparents a couple weeks ago… how in the heck did she know that?!?  And animal sounds… we basically were reviewing with Braska, as we often do, just playing the “what does it say” game, and Kinlee knew them all right on after the first time through!    I can’t get over how one day she doesn’t know (fill in the blank) and the next day she knows it completely!  Braska has serious feeding issues, is on a g-tube, and isn’t anywhere near feeding herself, because she doesn’t really want food in the first place.  Kinlee was given a spoon, shown how to use it once, and she has a decent grasp of it.  Not that it’s perfect, but she gets it.  Amazing!  We often refer to Kinlee as the “superhero” of the family.  But then Braska is the one who has endured open-heart surgery and thrived with beauty and grace throughout the whole struggle!

Would I want to change Braska to make her “keep up” better?   Nope, not at all.  I’d love it if she were to be able to learn more easily or grasp concepts more fully, but I don’t know what other things we might lose in that adjustment that I’m not willing to let go of.  I have come to believe, once again, that she is precisely who she was designed to be, and I can only adore her for being so purely that.  There is no pretense to her, she doesn’t try to be what she’s not.  She’s 3, she’s a girly girl,  and that’s all that’s there.  And I like it that way. 

I don’t know if this helps any, but I can only encourage you that there are a lot of us out here who are in the same boat.  I have a few blogger friends who have a kiddo with DS as the oldest and then another one within the next couple years.  It’s amazing how similar our stories are, and yet how we each handle it with our own style.  If you wouldn’t mind, I’d love to post your question (names removed, so you wouldn’t be identified at all, if you like) so that some of the other moms in this position could offer their insight as well.  Would that be ok with you?

The day that Kinlee uses her first full sentence in a more concise and language-appropriate way than her sister, I’m going to have trouble with it, even while I celebrate her accomplishment.  I hate to see Braska be truly “behind” her little sister, but I know that Kinlee is going to be a great leader for her to follow after.  Braska will benefit greatly from Kinlee’s being “ahead” of her!

Many blessings… love them like crazy, and celebrate them, no matter how quickly or slowly they got to the sweet spot. :o)

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How would YOU answer the question??

9 comments:

  1. I'm interested to see what other moms say!

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  2. I have just one child who has Down syndrome, but I think if I have a second child how it would be. Will I compare them? I remember when my sister and I were kids we used to dislike our parents compared us because we were different, we like different things and do things in different ways and pace. So, I will keep this in mine when I have my second child.

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  3. I cannot do anything but cry when I read this post. I love them both dearly. They are both extraordinary, they both touch my heart in a way that is nearly painful. I would want that neither of them ever feel less than or not as competent or not as beautiful but it seems that brook without rocks does not sing.

    Both these girls sing the most beautiful songs.

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  4. It's very simple- don't.

    You shouldn't be comparing anyone to anyone. I am mom to 7 and grandma to 3. The grandsons are starting to bypass my youngest with DS and frankly, so what?

    We all have strengths and weakness and we just need to focus on the positives each of us has, and do what we can to help each other grow.

    Since all this takes place in your own thoughts and feelings, it will be the easiest thing in your life to 'fix'. Focus on the positives. Forget the rest.

    "My problem is not how *I* look, it's how *you see* me. "

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  5. RK - As you know, my daughter with Ds has the youngest of 3. However, I ran a daycare for the first 3 years of Peanut's life and I have friends that have children Peanut's age or younger. Even the other children I know that have Ds I find myself comparing Peanut to. Especially in speech. But you raise a very good point that I appreciate, I tend to take Peanut's strength for granted and focus on the weaknesses. Of course, this is necessary to help her, but I need to put a little more focus on the strengths sometimes.

    I know what Carol said to be true in my heart, "simply don't compare them" but that's easier said than done. We all do it to some degree. Comparing and challenging to excel can be a good thing if done in a positive way. It's not so much that you shouldn't or that you shouldn't have a pity party from time to time, but that you should not get caught up in it constantly. Some times a good cry helps to move on and see the brighter side of things.

    I'm going to try to write a post on this as well when I have time tonight. Thanks for the inspiration, I've been suffering from writer's block!

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  6. Yes, if you stick with the positives, it can be great having typical kids around who will help you stop treating your child with DS in a manner that may not be age appropriate. My other kids and her peers at school keep reminding me where she *should* be and even though I do not dwell on the things she is not able to pull off right now, I do focus on the things she I know she CAN do, keep working on needed skills and I don't let her fool me into treating like a much younger child.

    Often the other kids are the ones who make me see how limited MY vision of her is. ;-)

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  7. B--Me too!

    Rosa--Hi!! Good to see you! I need to get in touch with you...will drop you an email about a local family.

    Grandma C--I'm so glad you're on our team.

    Carol--Logic says "don't compare," this is true. But my thoughts and feelings are definitely not logical, and they are SURE not easy to fix. I'm difficult like that! Amen to focusing on the positives.

    Debbie--Looking forward to your post. :)

    Carol--It is true that we may at times baby our kids when they need to be rising to higher expectations. So hard to decipher. That's parenting, I guess.

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  8. I think you did a great job answering the question.

    As much as we tell ourselves NOT to compare, because really, it isn't fair to compare... it just happens. I don't think you can help it. I also think there probably is comparisons in families with all typical kids. I think I would be comparing Kayla and Lucas even if Kayla didn't have Ds. For instance - the baby books - wouldn't that be comparing to say oh well Kayla walked at such an age and Lucas walked at this age (in the scenario that Kayla didn't have Ds) does that make sense?

    But yes, my kids are 5 yrs apart yet I still find myself comparing! Maybe it's because of having a child with Ds first and I didn't realize how natural and fast a typical child just does things and gets things. Lucas seems like you described Kinlee - just blazing through the milestones with no instruction whatsover and I think gosh he's one smart kid! But I actually haven't really compared him to a lot of typical 2 yr olds and he's probably pretty average after all hahaha ... but it just seems like he's 'ahead' on things because of how fast he learns and catches on ... and because of how much longer it took Kayla to do those things.

    Like I noticed he was jumping about 18 months (I think, never even wrote that down!) but Kayla was 3 before she got both feet off the ground. He's so much more agile and balanced and coordinated than Kayla. He speaks in better sentences than Kayla. Although he does mimic some of Kayla's speech patterns/enunciations. I do find myself thinking, geesh look what he's doing already, or how well he's doing such and such, better than Kayla is doing. Sometimes it makes me sad, but I realize this is going to happen whether I like it or not!

    Sorry, didn't mean to write a book :)

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  9. This has been on my mind a lot lately. Sophie is 3 and Helena is 14 months. In submitting Soph's IEP to our new state recently I've been reading what her therapists have said which includes the scoring on those darn tests that we all hate. They place Soph at the level of a 17-18 month old.
    Helena has reached her milestones at the typical times and may be a little advanced in the area of speech. So, we basically have 2 girls of near identical developmental age, wearing the same size diapers, playing similarly. Helena is rapidly surpassing Soph in speech and will soon catch her in gross motor.
    Even as Soph is delayed, she still displays a lot of the "terrible 2's & 3's tantrum behaviors. Some of her sweetness seems to have waned and I'm not sure if that is because she is behaving like a typical 3 year old or if she's extra frustrated in her struggle to communicate her needs.
    Helena eats anything we give her. Soph has begun refusing most things, except Wheat Thins and apple sauce, which makes EVERY.SINGLE.MEAL a battle.
    If someone says they wouldn't compare the kids in a similar situation, I might be tempted to call them out. How can you not? How can you not have conflicted feelings? Joy of the younger child's accomplishments and deep breaths over the older child's own pace. It is a constant adjustment.
    Guess it may be time for a little blog writing as therapy for me again.
    Good post RK.
    ---Jen

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